Friday, December 30, 2011

About Napping

Moving hearth and workspace gives rise to a sea of stress that would drown me if I didn’t have a reliable life raft. Last week I griped about how I allowed my life to get crowded. This week I will pat myself on the back for taking naps.

I married into a family that played solitaire, spent long hours talking at the table over wine or coffee and got to work at ten o’clock in the morning at the earliest. My assessment of this behavior, oft voiced to my Spanish husband, was that my country’s work ethics got us to the moon. He seemed to prefer to live in the glory of Spain’s past and enjoy all the leisure he could get away with. I learned to nap from this family I married into, in addition to a number of other customs that have enriched my life, but napping is far and away the one I most value. Friends and family know that I don’t answer the phone between from about one to three (lunch and a bit of reading get factored in there) and I know that anyone who calls at that time is no friend of mine.

The effort I have been making to tie up the loose ends of my marketing projects and to walk away from those that have been my reason to live in my studio, and to dealing with the learning that goes into a house purchase and renovation — believe me, honoring my nap time, my splendid, bless├ęd indulgence, has enabled me to pick up and return to the fray every morning. Well, almost every. There has been a day here and there (this is the closest thing you will get to a confession from me), that I have gotten up at six (usual), sucked up a big cup of coffee, read the local paper, (all usual) and then, very quietly, I slip back into my bedroom and curl into my easy chair with my pillows and take a morning snooze. After coffee? Yup, napping is something I do exceedingly well. I can find that place in myself that connects me to sweet oblivion. The day I reach my one hundred and tenth birthday and am interviewed for my advice about how to keep going at such a pace for so long and so well, you will know the answer. Slumber. Often. More is better.

Bob HopeI don't feel old. I don't feel anything till noon. That's when it's time for my nap.

Remember that to ease the transition, all work from 2007 and earlier that I am not currently marketing is on sale at a 50% reduction in price. The image above, Small Town, is included in this group. It is acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, ©1993, framed and hanging in my studio. Email me for images and prices or call for information or a studio appointment. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

About a Full Life

I like to have something to do. I don’t like to have a lot to do. It’s lovely to be focused on a task to the exclusion of everything else. Days like today, when there was so much that seemed important and urgent, everything vying with everything else for my attention, make me want to walk away from all of it. 

Sometimes life gets too full. A good solution would be to get myself cloned — several times over. Then one part of me would be writing this blog, another would be in the kitchen baking the cake that I promised my daughter for her party and another would be paying the bills that are in danger of coming overdue. One of me would be working happily in the studio while another putters mindlessly about the house. One could be on the phone with a friend and an additional version could be reading quietly or (oh, joy!) taking a nap. None of me would be cleaning house. No sense in wasting any of this bounty.

And now all of me wishes all of you a joyful holiday with many happy returns.

The photo above is what the space that will become my studio looked like the day I saw it for the first time. If you stay tuned for updates you will see it become my ideal of a workspace: the well-illuminated inside of a white box. Hard to imagine, huh? Well, have faith.

Here’s an update on the moving story: I have the keys to the new quarters now. The plans for the renovation to what will be my studio are out for bids. The move is planned for the very end of January and it is my hope that the studio will be ready then. That is probably wishful thinking, but life has been so good to me lately, I’m going to assume this will just fall into place well. Or if not, I’ll adjust. Do not want to seem ungrateful to whatever angels have been seeing to my well-being.

Remember that to ease the transition, all work from 2007 and earlier that I am not currently marketing is on sale at a 50% reduction in price. Email me for images and prices or call for information or a studio appointment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

About the Loss of Selfhood

I just wrote a note that I ended with: “Imagine how many interesting people there are in the world, who have much to offer us, that we will never know”. Then I realized that is what books are for. And they are blessedly low maintenance. Joan Didion’s Blue Nights was a generous gift. I had read The Year of Magical Thinking which dealt with the death of her husband. Her daughter died not long afterwards and led to the writing of Blue Nights.

What surprised me about both books was that death caught her unawares. In spite of there having been several untimely and tragic departures amongst family and friends, she was totally unprepared for its assault on her. While the pain of loss would be whatever it was, death has always been visible in my picture of life’s probabilities at any moment. But what do I know? I hope to experience my own demise before that of any who are in the foreground of that picture.

Where Didion focused most meaningfully to me was on the loss of her self, of the person she was. As she experienced those disappearances she aged (or seemed to) more quickly than before. She had been fragile; now she saw herself failing and fading. Perhaps it is because she and I were born in the same year that her experience gripped me. I have not yet been drawn into the downward spiral she describes so affectingly but do not expect to be forever invulnerable. I think a lot about aging; it seems to happen far more quickly and causing more change than anticipated. Didion says: “Aging and its evidence remain one of life’s most predictable events, yet they also remain matters we prefer to leave unmentioned, unexplored”. I would recommend that everyone, at whatever age, give some thought to it. Best not to let it catch you unprepared. Think about death too. No matter what you think or how smart you are, it will get you, too.

I quoted here once Isabel Allende (who also lost her daughter) who said in an interview: “Life is about loss”. Didion says it differently: “ 'You have your wonderful memories,' people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are (school) uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to weddings of people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.” She talks about “staying alive”. That is not the same as being alive. Big difference. I think in pictures: staying alive looks like someone who has fallen over the edge of the cliff and is hanging on to a tree branch by her fingernails. Being alive looks more like somebody dancing or busy at work.

I did a poor job recently of attempting to explain to my son-in-law why old photos make me feel sad. Recently taken photos don’t do that. Old photos are about the times that will never be again. I cannot ever again have the family whole and together as it was. Or be with my school friends feeling our futures in the palms of our hands, thinking we could do whatever we wanted with our lives. Didion’s take on this time: "Ask anyone who was a child during the supposedly idyllic decade advertised to us at the time as the reward for World War Two. New cars. New appliances. Women in high heels and aprons removing cookie sheets from ovens…  This was as safe as it got, except it wasn’t: ask any child who was exposed during this postwar… fantasy to the photographs from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ask any child who saw the photographs from the death camps.” Two sides to this coin.

Life is good now. I am more and have more in many ways. But that does not change the fact that I can’t have my kids as little children again nor my friends young, healthy and alive. I can’t introduce my children to the grandmother they never met. A reviewer in The Guardian said something about the artist’s ability to create order out of chaos. Sometimes it can’t be done. What was is gone. Forever.

From a recent interview in Time of poet John Ashberry:
You're 84. Do you think about death?
I've never not thought about it. There are not that many things to write poetry about. There's love and there's death and time passing and the weather outside, which is horrible today.

The image above is RedYellowBlue, ©2011, 8.5” x 11”, acrylic collage.

Please check out the poem that my friend Mike Yanke was inspired to write after reading about my slovenly housekeeping. Just click on “Comments” below last week’s blog post.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

About Art as Business

I have tried, heaven knows I have tried, to think of what I do as a business. I have even taken courses and did an almost one year workshop about art business. And I’ve read the books and done the online research. But the truth is that I would (and do) do it whether or not there is anything that resembles a profit. Now how can you call something a business if profit is not at the top of the priority list? Could you stay in business while the prime concern is the quality of the product, hang the cost? I have no limits when it comes to what I will spend on materials. I challenge anybody to have a greater variety of paintbrushes or pastel colors than I. I shop for food and clothing at the local discount stores but my studio materials are top of the line, state of the art. No expense spared. Frugality at home but in the studio I scrimp only when it comes to framing - which can always be upgraded by the purchaser, while the end product must be immutable.

Interesting, isn’t it? How one changes over a lifetime? There was a time when I had a salary which provided discretionary income; this I chose to spend mostly on furnishing the house we lived in as a family and some other happy indulgences. I had every pot and pan Le Creuset made and loved to spend time in the kitchen. I entertained cheerfully and spent a lot of time on the phone with dear friends. I sewed, loved making my clothing. At the same time I had a full time job, dealt with a demanding husband and raised the four who went on to support the conversion of the mother they knew into the person I am now. I don’t think they will ever understand how much I owe them. And a good thing that is too. No repayment possible.

I am now candidate for worst housekeeper by anyone’s standards, laziest cook and am an all around shiftless and unproductive individual in most areas outside my studio. And happier than ever. Who knew?

The image above is Orange-Violet, a new acrylic collage on paper, 23" x 17", framed and hanging at Piante gallery in the Abstractions 2011 exhibition. 
Erma Bombeck: “Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn't even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.” 

Friday, December 2, 2011

About a Meaningful Life

I was ready a few days ago to write about what “home” means to me but the inspiration waned when I didn’t set to it right away. I don’t remember what I was feeling about it then. That’s the key. I need to have some sense of the topic, otherwise I’ll bore myself and my readers. Painting is like that too. One needs to catch it before it passes by.

Something that stirs me now and again is the expression “a meaningful life”. I quoted here before the words of writer-psychiatrist Irvin Yalom who speaks of life’s “givens”: death, isolation, groundlessness, and meaninglessness. He offers a choice of certain stances: to be “resolute” or “engaged," or courageously defiant, or stoically accepting, or to relinquish rationality and, in awe and mystery to place one’s trust in the providence of the Divine.” And then, elsewhere, he says: “The question of the meaning of life is, as the Buddha taught, not edifying. One must immerse oneself in the river of life and let the question drift away.” 

A meaningful life is not, I think, easily defined as a happy one or a morally good one. Most of us (and I speak of this western culture) make consequential choices while very young, choices that inform our entire lives — about schooling, career or vocation, spouses, having children or not, about where to live and work. We might make big changes later, but it all adds up; it is our story. Some of us make such big mistakes in our youth that the potential for a fulfilling life is lost. Looking back at my own life it seems I made most choices as I floated along on that “river of life” and operated partly as I thought was expected of me and partly provoked by some romantic appeal, responding to life’s questions as they appeared. There was no general plan. So there was marriage, children and a teaching job and life away from the US. All very rewarding and enriching. It was not until I was in my mid-forties that I stopped one day and said (to myself) “Hey, wait a minute. This isn’t my life.” I suppose that maturity, responsibility and the beginning of self-awareness begin when we realize how fast our lives are happening. There just isn’t as much time as we thought there was. 

Dostoevsky said: “It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.” A life altering decision or crisis in mid-life might be far better than to reach old age and feel that one missed out somehow. How sad that would be.

Is it this time of year when I read of the wackiness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday that my thoughts turn to meaning in life?

The image above is Red-Blue. It is a new, small (17" x 11") acrylic collage now hanging at the Piante Gallery in Eureka in the Abstractions 2011 exhibition.